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An informal, stream-of-consciousness reflection on business ideas, events and issues in modern business, modern life and with some specifics to the web-software industry by Paul Tomori, Internet Entrepreneur

Death by Spotlight
Michael Jackson: a truly talented performer

By Paul Tomori
Friday, June 26, 2009 at 16:27:37 (EDT)

"Columnist Andrew Sullivan, on his blog for The Nation magazine, wrote that he grieved for Jackson "but I also grieve for the culture that created and destroyed him."

"That culture is ours, and it is a lethal and brutal one: With fame and celebrity as its core values, with money as its sole motive, it chewed this child up and spat him out," Sullivan wrote. "I hope he has the peace now he never had in his life. And I pray that such genius will not be so abused again."
In my last blog post, I outlined what I think to be one of the emerging flaws in our ever-complex world: missing fundamentals in the people we hold up as exemplars. It's not just the scandal-saddled politicians who indulge sexual indiscretions, then come out apologizing to God and asking forgiveness from their wives. It's not just the CEOs of public companies who abuse their powers to enrich themselves through criminal manipulations of stock prices. It's present everywhere. In fact, I don't even speak singularly of scandal-ridden public figures. I mean at all levels and in all industries there is a lack of true ability and high moral character in people who really should be exemplary.

I will never forget in my former career as a database operator at the local school board, a young guy who wanted me to fudge his highschool transcript to help him get into Engineering school. I calmly told him "no"... that "one day, I might be driving over a bridge that you have had a hand in designing" and that if he were to have such powers, they would need to be arrived at through true learned ability. Not faked. Not cheated.

In the last blog entry, I refered to the Beatles and Elvis as truly talented individuals whose talents were recognized BEFORE we got to also see their fresh-faced photos spread by the modern media machine. I was lamenting the fact that some of our most revered entertainers and business managers are not qualified for their jobs. Michael Jackson was not pseudo-great. He was TRULY great. I could easily have referred to Michael Jackson in the same category of TRULY talented individuals.

Notwithstanding the alleged indiscretions of Michael Jackson, which he was acquitted of in court and which we must believe were either unfounded or over-inflated examples of poor judgement on his part, yesterday, the world lost him and today the world is less well off because of it.

Not that Mr. Jackson's presence was to make the world a better place. Rather, his purpose was to live a happy life and to perhaps help achieve that by contributing his talents.

It is on this point that I build today's blog entry.

I call Michael Jackson's passing a "death by spotlight". You know the saying "live by the sword, die by the sword"? Well... MJ lived by the spotlight and he passed the same way. He lived in a "fisheye lense, caught in the camera eye". The trouble is he seemed to feel that he owed the world more than what the world deserved. The countless leeches who attached themselves to this guy. The absurd lawsuits. The never-ending media spotlight capturing his every move. All of these things zapped him. Little by little.... til there was nothing left but a shadow of the man he used to be. And the trouble is he let them... probably because he was simply ill-equipped to know any different way to contend with the loss of privacy. Afterall, he was a star since almost before I was born... and that was a long time ago!

It's painful to think of this man just wanting to live, yet caught up in a constant whirlwind of excessive obtrusive pathetic cling-ons all shamelessly peering constantly into his life.

You know, we all need alone time. We need time to just breathe and to stare out at a beautiful panoramic view and to regroup. We also need to just get out of our shells and go and co-mingle with the world. Today, I went for a walk out on the Port Dalhousie pier. It's been a hard week of non-stop work... intermingled with midnight diaper changes and other sleep-depriving responsibilities. it was uplifting to just park my car for 30 minutes and casually walk into the sunshine, to pass my fellow walkers and simply say hello... or say nothing. If I were in L.A. today, that walk might have been on the Santa Monica pier. But, could Michael Jackson ever have enjoyed such freedom? The Santa Monica pier is beautiful. Michael Jackson lived close it, but could he ever seriously have casually walked out on that pier...? without an entourage of bodyguards and paparazzi in tow?? Could he ever have just been an aloof observer? A "man on the street"? Nope. He was always the "observed". He was a prisoner of his fame and fortune.

I like just being a man on the street. I can pursue my greatness and my achievement without having to worry about losing my identity. And, I can actually be great at what I do and not pseudo-great. People can rely on me. I am in constant pursuit and refinement of the fundamentals that relate to everything in my profession.

And, despite my significantly lesser wealth compared to Mr. Jackson, I can be (and actually am) a very happy person. It's painful to think of what he went through over the last 20 years. I do not envy him for a second. He blazed new trails and while doing so, the world saddled him with all of their heavy loads.

We need to let the trailblazers just be. To just live. We must not impose our needs and wants endlessly on the mighty and the talented. Can we not just be content to enjoy the works they produce?

Every performer sets him/herself up for the potential prison sentence. Elvis Presley. John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, etc... the list of actors and stars who have been subjected to public and media abuse is frighteningly endless. John Lennon wrote some great songs with some insightful lyrics... Then, some crazy-ass individuals think he's thus a prophet and needs to be dogged for more pearls of wisdom even when he's just out for a walk in Central Park. And then some pathetic guy who wasn't amounting to anything in his own life figured he could pull the ultimate leech move and achieve notoriety through infamy by pulling the trigger on a truly a great man in John Lennon. We all know how Mr. Lennon's story ended. Another tragedy. Another death by spotlight.

I always thought that if I met one of my heroes or bumped into them at an airport or at a restaurant, I might just say "thank you"... thank you for that amazing book... thank you for your inspiring business success... thank you for that amazing software application... thank you for your incredible drumming... thank you for your artistry. But no, even that would be unfair. I am resolved to give these people their due distance. I won't say a damnable thing to them more than I would say to just any other "man on the street" which is usually just "hello"... or nothing. Let the stars be insulated. And for those stars who haven't figured out that their own cravings for the limelight, if left unchecked, will lead them like a moth into the flame one day, don't indulge them too much. Just enjoy the fruits of their artistic or business greatness.... and leave well enough alone. Even if I am just one person who shows them this courtesy, I will be one less person hanging off of their "soul".

Do you buy Star magazine? Read Perez Hilton? Or any of those other tabloid publications/blogs? You may want to consider discontinuing that. In your own small way, it might just contribute to the saving of a valuable life somewhere out there one day.

In closing, I would say "rest in peace" Michael Jackson, but I think such statements are frivolous and meaningless. Death is not restful. Death is the end of all activity AND of all rest. Death is just a big nothing. It's "curtains" with no chance of an encore. Goodbye Michael Jackson. I hope that the world learns from what they did to you and I hope other public figures learn from your loss how to protect their own freedom... their own sanctity... their own well-being.

Just a "man on the street"...
enjoying a moment of unobtrusive unbothered personal serenity...
Looking out on Lake Ontario from the pier at Port Dalhousie

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